The NSW Police force has reached a milestone in its long-running effort to overhaul the state's 21-year old COPS database, outlining its requirements for the all-important build phase of the critical project.
The policing agency was given $44.8 million over three years in the 2013-14 state budget for the modernisation of its computerised operational policing system (COPS).
COPS is integral to the everyday operation of the force - it is used for logging criminal incidents, gathering intelligence and issuing charges, among other things.
But the system is an ADABAS/Natural application hosted on an IBM mainframe that was implemented in 1994.
It had been a text-only data entry and retrieval system until NSWPOL engaged Fujitsu in 2011 to lay a modern web-based interface - 'WebCOPS' - over the top to improve search and usability.
The system has over 5000 green screens that make it difficult to use and access real-time operational reports. It also restricts the force’s IT team from adopting innovative technologies.
Due to the massive scope of the project, NSW Police decided to split up the application design and build parts of the work.
It appointed Deloitte last year to lead application design, but revoked the provider’s ability to bid later for the build work to maintain equal footing in the tender process.
Last September, NSW Police began the mammoth task of moving COPS from the mainframe to open systems by pushing a synchronised copy of COPS data into Oracle Exadata RDMBS - which is to be used in the interim until the data can be migrated to the new database.
The force also completed a number of preparatory works such as making search in WebCOPS available from mobile devices, integrated information between COPS and NSWPOL’s CAD system, developed a 'power search tool, and implemented a new security framework.
NSWPOL CIO Chris Robson said the incremental approach - as opposed to a "big bang" transformation project - would generate the least technological risk and lowest impact on the organisation while still delivering benefits.
"Earlier phases of the COPS modernisation have focused on establishing architectural foundations while realising greater value from the existing platform," Robson said.
"The completed phases are now providing more operationally relevant information to officers in the field, eliminating duplicate data entry and improving the NSW Police Force's investigative capability."
His team is now getting itslef ready for what is arguably its most critical phase: replatforming COPS.
The critical nature of the system to NSWPOL’s 20,577 sworn police officers - not to mention external partner agencies - means there will be huge pressure on Robson's team to get it right.
On top of that, the force is also facing a forecasted growth in the number of event records input into COPS annually of 2 million a year. There are already 34 million records in the existing platform.
The plan is for all of COPS to be migrated off the mainframe onto J2EE and HTML5 technology and the legacy system decommissioned.
Some events, intelligence and case management functions will remain on the mainframe for the time being, and will be redeveloped into NewCOPS - as the force is dubbing it - in later program phases.
Gutsy providers apply within
The immediate focus for NSW Police is finding a provider that can take on the job.
The force is happy for NewCOPS to be either custom-built from scratch or leveraged off existing and mature “police specific” solutions - as long as it offers faster and more efficient search, better navigation and data entry, more efficient workflow summaries, multimedia recording of incidents and information, support for mobile devices, and a community portal, among other things.
The chosen provider will be required to physically locate its project team within NSW Police.
While the force will consider offshoring non-critical development works, the partner would need to satisfy NSW Police that confidentiality of the force’s data would be assured, and outline how project management would be undertaken and offshore resources vetted.
Integrating NewCOPS to the existing mainframe COPS for data exchange will be critical to ensuring end users and business processes aren’t interrupted during the migration.
The phased approach being taken by NSWPOL means the chosen provider will need to develop a “robust solution including inter-system integration” based on the developed COPS APIs.
The force thinks the impact on existing interfaces will be reduced by keeping them as they are and creating “slave data” in COPS.
More than 1000 COPS APIs will need to be exposed to NewCOPS to achieve this business continuity.
But the slave data replication model is not feasible for all of COPS’ interfaces.
NSW Police will need to continue providing existing mainframe connections, batch integrations and manual interfaces to 42 COPS interfaces used by external agencies, as well as a number of internal interfaces between systems.
NSWPOL is not committing itself to a timeframe for contract award or solution implementation until it has had time to assess the market response.
Suppliers have until August 17 to submit their bids for the work.